The Playoff Primer
A guide to the 2011 WNBA Playoffs presented by Boost Mobile

The WNBA Playoffs is a best-of-three elimination tournament between the top four teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences to determine the two teams that will play in the WNBA Finals.

Dates to Remember

September 11: Final day of the regular season
September 15: First day of the WNBA Playoffs
October 2: First day of the WNBA Finals
October 12: Last possible day of the WNBA Finals

The Format

At the conclusion of the regular season, the top four teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs and are seeded one to four based on their regular season records. The team with the best record receives seed one, the team with the next best record receives seed two, and so on. If two teams have an equal record, tiebreaker rules determine which team receives the higher seed (see below for full explanation).

The seedings are used to create a bracket that determines the match-ups throughout the playoffs. The first round , also know as the Conference Semifinals, consists of two match-ups in each conference based on the seedings (1-4 and 2-3).

The two winners advance to the next round, the Conference Finals, with a match-up between the 1-4 and 2-3 winners. At the conclusion of the Conference Finals, the winners of these series advance to the WNBA Finals.

The Conference Semifinals and the Conference Finals are each best-of-three series. Series are played in a 1-1-1 format, with the team with home-court advantage (better record) hosting Games 1 and 3, while their opponent hosts Game 2.

The WNBA Finals is a best-of-five series played in a 2-2-1 format, with the team with home-court advantage hosting Games 1, 2, and 5 while their opponent hosts Games 3 and 4.


If two teams have the same record, tiebreaker following rules are used determine which team receives the higher seed.

(1) Better record in head-to-head games.
(2) Better winning percentage within own conference.
(3) Better winning percentage against all teams with .500 or better record at the end of the season.
(4) Better point differential in games head-to-head.
(5) Coin toss.

If more than two teams have the same record, the following tiebreaker rules are used to determine the seeds.

(1) Better winning percentage among all head-to-head games involving tied teams.
(2) Better winning percentage against teams within conference (if all teams are from the same conference) or better record against teams in the opposite conference (if one or more teams are in different conferences).
(3) Better winning percentage against all teams with a .500 or better record at the end of the season.
(4) Better point differential in games involving tied teams.
(5) Coin toss.

Playoff History

The Seattle Storm are the defending WNBA champions, having won the 2010 WNBA Finals over the Atlanta Dream in a three-game sweep. The Storm finished the regular season with the best record in the league (28-6) and was unbeaten in the Playoffs (7-0) on their way to their second WNBA title. Their first came in 2004.

Lauren Jackson, who won her third Most Valuable Player award for her play in the regular season, was also named Finals MVP after averaging 22.3 points and eight rebounds in the championship series. She became the fourth player to win MVP and Finals MVP in the same season, joining Cynthia Cooper (1997 and 1998), Lisa Leslie (2001) and Diana Taurasi (2009).

Complete List of WNBA Champions

YearChampionsResultOpponentFinals MVP
1997Houston Comets1-0New York LibertyCynthia Cooper
1998Houston Comets2–1Phoenix MercuryCynthia Cooper
1999Houston Comets2–1New York LibertyCynthia Cooper
2000Houston Comets2–0New York LibertyCynthia Cooper
2001Los Angeles Sparks2–0Charlotte StingLisa Leslie
2002Los Angeles Sparks2–0New York LibertyLisa Leslie
2003Detroit Shock2–1Los Angeles SparksRuth Riley
2004Seattle Storm2–1Connecticut SunBetty Lennox
2005Sacramento Monarchs3–1Connecticut SunYolanda Griffith
2006Detroit Shock3–2Sacramento MonarchsDeanna Nolan
2007Phoenix Mercury3–2Detroit ShockCappie Pondexter
2008Detroit Shock3–0San Antonio Silver StarsKatie Smith
2009Phoenix Mercury3–2Indiana FeverDiana Taurasi
2010Seattle Storm3–0Atlanta DreamLauren Jackson

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